The promise and the peril: Science fiction's depiction of technology

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Patrick McCarthy - Committee Chair


This dissertation is a study of modern English-language speculative fiction from the seventeenth century to the twentieth, and ranging from the utopias of Francis Bacon and Edward Bellamy, to "Golden Age" writing by authors like Isaac Asimov and Phillip K. Dick, and more recent entries in the genre by authors like William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. The analysis focuses on the depiction of the metaphysical, social and political implications of a broad range of technological development, including industrialization, utopian planning, modern warfare, computerization, media and biotechnology. My survey of these works suggests that as technology has become more powerful and invasive (objectifying not just the world but the body and mind), and as doubts about the capacity of society and individuals to cope with technology have increased, literature has grown increasingly pessimistic about technology's impact. At the same time, however, there has been an undercurrent of hope among those anticipating a posthuman future, where technology has so fundamentally modified human capacities and potentials that the character of the future will literally be incomprehensible to those living today.


Literature, Modern; Literature, Canadian (English); Literature, American; Literature, English

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